By Jos Schaap, CEO, and Founder StayNTouch
Everyone experiences second-rate service from a trustworthy brand at some point. Some recent examples of large brands plagued with a reputation for poor service include wireless service providers, airlines, auto manufacturers and Internet service providers. One need only look at Twitter feeds to see the angst that their customers are feeling. In the airline industry, United Airlines seems to be getting the brunt of customer complaints and media coverage as of late due to the infamous dragging of a passenger from one of their flights that went viral. Now, they are once again in crisis management mode because a United employee tried to wrestle an 18th-century violin away from a passenger who wanted to carry on the rare and valuable violin but was being forced to check it in .
Apart from the odd exception, top brands are not able to retain their status as market leaders as long as they used to. As companies grow, they try their best to ensure that service standards are maintained at the highest levels possible. However, in the long run, a decline in quality of either products or customer service is one of the greatest risks. There are many reasons for this degradation. When companies shift more focus on cost savings, they may consider outsourcing offshore to cut costs. Also, as hospitality management evolves, companies that develop software may have employees that are not up to speed on the latest variations made to the software. This all but ensures they will short on helping their clients with technical issues. Large companies can also become constrained by the fragmented departments and processes they put in place to streamline operations, but these processes can backfire and actually slow down responsiveness. In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, McKinsey claimed that disloyalty is caused by a lack of understanding of the various touch points rather than by customer dissatisfaction with a single interaction.
It takes a long time to steer a big ship
In the hotel technology industry, some big companies have experienced declines in service because they have not been able to adapt to change quickly enough. Their infrastructure is aging quickly. We live in a world of instant gratification. For a software company in the hospitality space, the delivery of reliable, knowledgeable service and support is paramount to building a successful business. Software that runs a hotel or connects a hotel to its guest needs to be working at all times. When something does occur that inhibits the software from performing correctly, there can be no delays in a resolution to the issue. Smaller hotel technology brands can be more agile, modern and responsive.
Domain expertise makes all the difference
The people on the front lines of hotel software service and support not only need to have exceptional knowledge of the software in varied configurations, but they also need be specialists on how the hotel business works. They need to be able to identify if the issue is of an operational nature or related to the technology itself. Without an adequate background and understanding of the complexities of our industry – service, and support can quickly fall apart. One survey discussing customer dissatisfaction states that a whopping 91% of its respondents complained about customer service because they had to contact the same company several times before their problem was resolved. Regardless of industry, exceeding customer expectations requires the right mix of personal service, quality interactions, and first-call resolution.
It is time that customer service returned to its roots
With customer service often being a key differentiator, companies cannot settle for declining service levels, especially in the hotel industry as high touch service is the hallmark of our business. The first step for hotel technology providers to stay on track is to determine what constitutes superior customer service, and learn how to deliver it. The next step is to be aware of industry trends and new technologies that emerge as they impact not only on the industry, but they also impact software with issues like new integration requirements, compliance and more. Finally, companies should always plan for success rather than planning for failure. If you plan for success, you will be able to ramp up your support services to address the growth of your company and thus be able to meet the needs of your customers.
No matter how big or small our companies may be, as software providers, we are part of the service value chain right down to each and every guest. By providing excellent service to hotels – we enable them to provide exceptional service to their guests. Hotel software companies need to maintain the highest levels of support to ensure that their technology does not negatively impact hotel operations or their ability to exceed guest expectations.